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Air New Zealand insists it put ‘safety first’ despite ambitious restart

written by Adam Thorn | February 15, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Air New Zealand 777, ZK-OKQ

Air New Zealand has insisted it put “safety first” by cancelling its operations yesterday – but is likely to face criticism for attempting to restart services earlier in the day.

Former tropical cyclone Gabrielle made landfall on the North Island on Sunday night, causing severe winds that brought down trees and power lines.

Already, four people are now confirmed dead, but local police have received 1,400 reports of uncontactable people.

On Wednesday, the airline said it got “halfway through” resuming flights on Tuesday before eventually U-turning on the decision.

Chief sales officer Leanne Geraghty announced flights were now operating largely as normal, which she added was “no small feat”.


In total, the airline believes 49,000 customers were affected by the weather event, with 821 flights cancelled.

“Flying into heavily impacted regions New Plymouth, Napier and Gisborne has also resumed [on Wednesday] with some minor disruptions this morning as the airline worked through operationalising the routes,” said Geraghty.

“Following the increased wind gusts yesterday afternoon, the airline was forced to halt its domestic and international operation out of Auckland, resulting in a further 300 cancelled services.

“With aircraft and crew displaced around the network, our morning operations were a little bumpy. But we’re largely back in the swing of things today and are completely focused on customer recovery.

“We got halfway there yesterday with our restart, but, as we have throughout the recent weather events, we put safety first. It’s the right thing to do – every time.

“We had to divert nine services last night to other ports like Christchurch and Nadi, rework our schedule to allow for the planes and crew we had out of place, bring a large proportion of turboprops back out of storage and then work to rebook and look after those who have been disrupted.

“I’m continually amazed by the resilience of our Air New Zealand whānau – it has been one of the toughest periods in our history, and they have put everything on the line to help keep the business running and our customers flying.

“A huge thank you to them and our customers, who have been incredibly patient and understanding.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of Cyclone Gabrielle on those affected regions, particularly Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay.

“We’re ready and waiting to support the national state of emergency response and are talking to affected communities about how we can help. We’re also supporting our own people who are still badly affected by the terrible weather. We will continue to monitor the situation and support wherever we can.”

The business said it’s also deploying a special assistance flight, carrying communication support, emergency supplies and airport operational staff into Gisborne.

“We’ve again turned our focus to rebooking disrupted customers, with a focus on our 6,500 international customers impacted from yesterday’s cancellations. We’re looking at where the areas of greatest need are and will be adding services and changing to larger aircraft where possible,” added Geraghty.

“This may take some time, so we once again ask customers for their patience while we work through this.”

Air New Zealand has also added extra services to Nadi, Tahiti, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Apia to its international network as well as additional domestic services between Christchurch and Auckland to recover passengers that were diverted south.

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